Mashed Cauliflower with Mushroom Gravy

A pretty common Thanksgiving trick for moms is to substitute mashed cauliflower for the more traditional mashed potatoes. Because cauliflower is more nutritious than potatoes, this is a healthier alternative that still manages to maintain the flavor of the traditional dish.

It took me a few tries to get the consistency of the cauliflower right. That, to me, is the most difficult thing to do with cauliflower vs. potatoes. And if the texture isn’t just right, it’s a dead giveaway that you’re not eating mashed potatoes. There are a couple of things to do to avoid stringy, lumpy mashed cauliflower: first, make sure you steam the cauliflower very well. It should be completely tender, easily falling apart when “cut” with a fork. This time, I steamed the cauliflower in the microwave in a shallow dish with a few tablespoons of water. It took about 20 minutes to get it tender enough. (Time will vary depending on your microwave and how small you cut the cauliflower.) It works just as well to steam on the stove, though.

The second trick to getting the right consistency is to add the milk a little at a time. (In keeping with the “healthier version” theme, I used milk, not cream.) Too much, and you’ll have a watery mess. Too little and the cauliflower won’t mash up well enough.

Like mashed potatoes, this dish is all in the seasoning. I keep it simple with just salt and black pepper. And, while I have a moderate amount of butter in this recipe, feel free to increase the butter if you want that buttery taste. But the real highlight is in the gravy; like traditional mashed potatoes with beef gravy, the gravy heightens the flavors and texture of the cauliflower.